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[4]

Beginner - Equipment Recommendation? (mill / lathe)

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reharbert

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#1
Good morning! New member here, and I don't yet own any machining equipment. Wasn't sure where to post, but this seemed like a good place. I apologize if there is somewhere better.

I'm looking for a mill and lathe for home/hobby use. I'm involved in motorsports, and my kids and I race go karts, micro sprints, full size sprint cars, and build duck boat engines. I want to start to start doing my own engine machine work, and learn to use a mill and lathe to help with some of my other needs and hobbies.

In the next few weeks I'd like to purchase a mill and lathe. I've been looking for weeks, but it's hard to just pick something and go with it. I don't want to make the wrong purchase and need to sell and replace in a few years. My main goal is to work with small engines for motorcycles, gokarts, and mudmotors (air cooled lawn mower engines). I'd like to keep my budget on the equipment at $4,000 or less. If this means waiting a few months longer to get DROs I'm OK with that.

Are the combo mills/lathes any good, or am I better off getting two separate machines? I'm not sure what questions to ask, but I'm hoping you guys can point me in the right direction. I've never worked with the machines, but have watched more than my share of heads/blocks being decked and resurfaced.

Thank you very much!
 

reharbert

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#2

macardoso

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#3
I would steer clear of the combo machines. The lathe part is usually ok, but the mill part will have very limited capacity. Grizzly makes nice stuff new, although it recently got expensive with the tariff. You can also look for used equipment. I'd aim for something that still runs (nobody new wants to rebuild for the first time). You should see a lot of the old oil country equipment around there.
 

reharbert

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As much as I like the idea of the combo I was concerned one part would be limited, but was being optimistic! I hadn't thought of the tarrifs, but I am searching locally for something used.
 

Boswell

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#5
Keep your eye on the Houston Craigs List. I see used mills and lathes come up from time to time. What kind of space do you have in your shop? Also be ready to spend significant additional money on tooling. It may take some patience for the right equipment to come up on Craigs list but sooner or later it will.

Btw, Welcome to the forum. You came to a great community and will find lots of help here.
 

reharbert

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Thanks! I'm a fan of web forums. Most of my hobbies they've died out and been taken over by Facebook groups which aren't nearly as good. I was pretty excited to find this place and see it was still pretty active.

I have plenty of room - 40 x 60 red iron building, so that's not an issue. I started looking on Craigslist today....I'll link to some stuff I'm interested in as in comes up.
 

GrayTech

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Hi, you will probably need a full size mill to do heads etc. A hobby size mill may not have the size capacity. I would be looking at used with some tooling included. With a $4000 budget for both machines you'll have to be lucky and find bargains.

Sent from my H3123 using Tapatalk
 

reharbert

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#8
I should clarify that I'm NOT*** doing automotive heads. The largest would be a 4 cylinder motor cycle engine, measuring roughly 6-8 inches wide, 6 inches tall, and maybe 16 inches long. Ball park.

I'd consider pushing 5,000. This is what I can afford to spend now. I don't mind waiting a few months to buy the second piece. I may be a bit optimistic right now.
 
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MrWhoopee

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#9
Since you mentioned sprint cars among your interests, I'd recommend that you hold out for a full size Bridgeport type mill (9x42) and a lathe with at least 10-12 inch swing. Smaller equipment will do the smaller work, but you'll be feeling the limitations sooner rather than later. Let the work dictate the equipment, not the budget.
 

DiscoDan

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Also check out Facebook Marketplace. In FB look along the top for the symbol that looks like a storefront with an awning. There is tons of stuff in my area.
 

SCLead

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#11
I used a combo Grizzly unit (looks like the G0516 looking at their website) for a couple years at a job. Not my "primary duty" or whatever, but I spent probably better than half my time turning parts and attempting to use the mill, all in a gunsmithing capacity. In short; don't waste your money.

I'm not familiar with the used machinery market in Texas, but I'd hold out for decent used machines, which may take months or more to find the right deal. I watched casually for about 8 years before I found my lathe at the right price/quality juncture, but I'm probably unreasonably picky.

The combo Grizzly was especially horribly in a few regards:

- It had "DROs" only. These were the form of digital read outs on the dials, which replaced any analog readout completely. I hated this, and found them to be relatively inaccurate. I eventually developed a feel for the "real offsets" and printed a chart to post on the wall to the effect of "reading 0.001 is true movement of 0.0025" Across larger distances they weren't terribly out, so I'd use them to rough in a part and leave 5-10 thou, then measure between every cut and creep up on it. Took forever to make anything, but got me there. This dial discrepancy was discovered when I trusted it and put holes in the wrong spot on a relatively rare FN shotgun receiver - just far enough out to make drilling them correctly impossible without repair beyond our tooling abilities. I still lay things out by hand now, even when using top of the line machines with .0001" DROs at work.
- There was a rheostat to adjust speed, which complemented change gears, and I presume the gear chart was lost before I got there. Basically, you never knew what RPM you were actually running. When I arrived, it was geared to run the fastest possible speed (i.e. too fast for anything we'd ever actually do), and the tooling was installed in the lathe upside down. I wish I were joking.
- The mill had very little Z travel, enough so that it was difficult to get a 3-4" tall item on fixtures then under tooling, and I never even attempted to run a drill chuck, probably because the place was too cheap for one.

Expect to spend at least as much as you spend on the machine, on tooling. I suggest looking at and prioritizing the work you expect to do, and prioritize machine and tooling accordingly. A lot of folks advocate buying a lathe first, but if you really need a mill and can only use a lathe occasionally, my logic says a mill is the smarter first buy. I'd try to buy one and get it reasonably tooled up before you buy the second machine. That way you can do some work while you save for the other machine, instead of having two machines with no tooling to do any work :D
 

Eddyde

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#12
I agree with the above recommendations on finding decent used machines, your dollars will go much further, than new. That being said you will still be tight for both a mill and a lathe. The main reason is tooling you will need to use the machines can cost as much a the machine itself. Again this is the advantage of buying used machines, they often come equipped with tooling. Also when considering the size of the machines, it is not just the size of the part that must be considered but clearances for the work holding and tooling as well. For the work you described, a full size Bridgeport and min. 10" lathe.
 

reharbert

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This IS the feedback I was looking for. I still have lots of reading and learning, but you guys have steered me in the right direction and gave me an idea of what to start looking at.
 

Glenn Goodlett

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#15
shopmasterusa.com

This is what I have. Perfect it's not. It took a while to get everything dialed in, but, it's working pretty good now. Has been reliable for the year that I have owned it. The mill lacks rigidity for the horsepower it has so smaller tools are better.
 

ttabbal

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#16
Check local newspaper classifieds as well. Around here, those get far more use than Craigslist, and 99% of the CL stuff ends up on the newspaper site as well. I recently picked up a Bridgeport for $1500 that is in great shape, though I did need to clean all the grease out. :) I added a $300 DRO, which has been great. Just made the last couple brackets for my lathe DRO with it.

It seems like overkill when you move a Bridgeport in. I was looking at bench mills before. But after using it, I wouldn't go smaller. The rigidity alone is worth it even if I never fully use the work envelope. And the extra space means I can get away with having tools stick out a little, within reason. For example, my collet adapter eats about 3" of Z, but it doesn't matter for me. And I can always switch to R8s if I need the space.

My lathe is a Precision Mathews 1127. If you are willing to go new, they are a great vendor to work with. I had never owned machine tools before and wanted to make sure I had something that worked and had some support if I ran into problems. I also wanted to have something to make/repair parts for another machine should I need to. Thankfully Bridgeport mills are so common that parts are easy to come by. I did make a few when the replacements were overpriced and accuracy wasn't super important.
 

GoceKU

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#17
reharbert, welcome to the forum, this is a great place to ask for advice and learn for almost anything. For your first machine i would suggest buy a lathe, 12-14 inch swing some old iron, then look for a Mill, i presume you already have welder and hand tools.
 

macardoso

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#18
xpect to spend at least as much as you spend on the machine, on tooling.
This man speaks the truth!

$1300 G0704 (New)
~ $1400 in tooling not counting the CNC conversion (some was metrology stuff)

$1100 Enco 12x36 lathe (Used)
~$800 so far.

Mind you this is over 5 years on the mill and 8 months on the lathe
 

Cadillac STS

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#19
With Craigslist you can do much more than just check daily to see if something comes up. Search for what you want. If it is still posted it likely is still available. I have found things that way and the seller is surprised someone contacted weeks later but it was still there.

Also you can look into near by areas on Craigslist. Search there.

When you do buy something you will need a truck or trailer to pick it up and another half hour or hour on the road is no big thing and can open up much more territory to search.
 

Cadillac STS

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#20
If you want to be able to surface heads of engines it will be virtually required to have a bridgeport style machine with a movable knee.

Benchtop mills would be less likely to have the working envelope to mount a cylinder head and even if it did the rigidity will not allow a large fly cutter to cut smooth over the surface.
 

reharbert

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#21
I ordered a few books yesterday evening to look over and learn something about the machines, tools, and making a decision on what to buy. I'm glad I came here - had I not I probably would have pulled the trigger blindly on a combo machine, and I'm glad I didn't.

Yes - I have welders, torches, a plasma arc, and most every power/hand tool. This is going to be a new adventure. I haven't even look at tooling yet, but I believe you guys on the cost. It's not uncommon, and I've seen things similar plenty of times.

I'm pretty set on going with a mill first, as I think I'll get more use more often from it. I'll be checking the classifieds pretty heavily, and probably link whatever I find appealing on here.
 

GoceKU

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#22
I'm glad I came here - had I not I probably would have pulled the trigger blindly on a combo machine, and I'm glad I didn't.
Only worth advice i can give when buying a used machine is to try it before you buy it, if you not confident in running it bring a friend, its like buying a car, go thru all the gears, feeds make sure it functions, and being a car guy you'll probably end up with the most powerful one you found, i know because that's what i did. I'll put a link at the end of my intro, so you can see what kind of machine to look for. I've gotten used to the power on my lathe and now when i go and look at a mill they all seem underpowered. link: https://www.hobby-machinist.com/threads/new-member-from-kumanovo-macedonia-europe.60652/
 

ezduzit

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#24
I picked up my Index Super 55 mill and Logan 12" x 35" lathe for $2,000 with several boxes of lathe tooling. Avoid combo machines or those with no tooling.

 

Mitch Alsup

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#25
Point 1: I have a Mill that is about your budget for both lathe and mill put together.
In my opinion, after using it for a year, it is too small to do head work accurately enough for high performance uses.

Point 2: You want a real lathe and you want a real mill. You do not want a combination lathe/mill.
 

reharbert

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#26
I definitely agree on Point 2 now - no questions asked!

On point 1 - I'm learning to agree. I had really had no idea what to look for which why I came here. I've learned lots, and am actively hunting classifieds and eBay. Patience is my friend right now!
 

BobSchu

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#27
I have a Smithy Granite machine that I was able to pick up very reasonably. It came with a ton of tooling and even a bunch of raw material so it was hard to walk away from. It has been a good little machine and I've made a lot of small parts with it and used it to clean up parts, surfacing, boring, and reaming on parts I've been making. It is a pain to do accurate work with, but can be made as accurate as you are able to manipulate it. And forget about threading on it. Changing gears every time you need to thread isn't my idea of a good time. However, it has been an extremely useful machine for small, quick items and doesn't take up much space.
However, these guys are absolutely correct in that the capacity just isn't there for any really meaningful work. Rigidity is not there either so you need to be very careful about fixturing work. In other words, it is fine as a secondary machine for quick, non exact jobs where extreme accuracy isn't important- and we all know there are lots of those around the shop.

I invested in a used older Sheldon Lathe which has turned out to be a very good machine, but, being old it needs some TLC and I will need to do a bit of work on it soon. I also bought a used old Tree Mill, which is a monster- which I haven't set up yet. Waiting for our new house to be built so I have a bigger shop to install it in.
While looking for machines, especially lathes I recommend a couple things -
Be sure to buy a lathe with quick change threading. Some of the older lathes that will fit into your budget may not have this feature, so be sure to look for it and test it a bit before buying. Make sure the tumbler handles and box work smoothly and there is no vibration or jumping around of the tumbler handles while under load, if possible. If possible, check to see how much run out the chuck has and what chucks the seller is offering with it. A good 3 jaw chuck is mandatory, but if a 4 jaw is available jump on it. Depending on what type of work you are planning on doing you will need quick change tool holders. If the machine you look at has the lantern or four post tool holders, they will work for a while, but you will want to start shopping for QCTP (quick change tool post) and tool holders to start with. A couple different live centers, a drill chuck with at least 1/2" capacity, and a boring head will be needed fairly soon if you're serious about getting any real use out of the machines. All will need the proper taper tang shaft to fit the tail shaft.
If you're going to be doing through-the-head work, like barrel or axle turning, you will need a spindle bore large enough to handle your blanks. Most of these type of lathes have a 1 3/8" spindle bore (or slightly larger).

As far as the mill- try to find a Bridgeport or a Bridgeport clone- there are tons of them and most of the parts are interchangable (but not all). Prices are all over the board so get the best deal you can if the machine is solid and not completely worn out. Tooling will also be important but the most important thing with the mill is to get a good, heavy duty vise like a Kurz and some good set up jigs, T-nuts that fit the table on the mill, and bolt down fixtures and pieces. A DRO is helpful, but not necessary immediately.

All in all, I'm thinking you're going to need to double your budget unless you get really lucky. And consider widening your search to several states away. Prices and availability jump substantially depending on where the machines are located. It will be worth it to be willing to drive several hundred miles each way to get a machine that is price right and the owner/seller is willing to help you load- hopefully with a fork lift.

Good luck in your search.
Bob
 

mickri

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#28
I will second using Searchtempest.com. That's what I used when searching for my lathe. Very easy to use and will cover as wide of an area that you are willing to drive to.
 

mickri

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#29
I raced go karts for awhile but my son wasn't interested in it. So on to other endeavors. Getting back on topic why don't you pay a visit to whoever is doing your engine work and see what equipment he is using. You will need a bunch of customized set ups. Tell him what you are thinking of doing. He just might tell you what you need and let you watch what he does.
 
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